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Women at increased risk of road accidents

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Men are involved in more fatal accidents, but per accident women are 20-28% more likely than men to be killed and 37-73% more likely to be seriously injured. These stats hold even after adjusting for speed and other factors.

Fortunately, I was not injured and I felt lucky to have escaped these alarming accident statistics, but I fear that the increase in road accidents will also mean that more women are at risk of injury. seriously.

Nearly 32,000 people died in road accidents across the country in the first nine months of 2021, which represents an increase of about 12% compared to deaths during the same period in 2020, according to data recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). ). Georgia is consistent with this trend with a reported increase of 12.2% (1,330 deaths) from January to September 2021.

Road deaths had been declining for 30 years before seeing a sharp increase in 2020. The trend appears to be continuing. Empty roads during the pandemic have left many feeling like they can pick up speed; some drivers did not slow down.

NHTSA said reckless driving was the cause based on behavioral research that showed speeding and traveling without a seatbelt were higher since the start of the pandemic.

This doesn’t bode well for anyone, but women can be particularly at risk.

Women tend to drive smaller, lighter cars and are more likely than men to drive the struck vehicle in side-to-side and front-to-rear collisions, said Jessica Jermakian, vice president of vehicle research for the ‘IIHS. These are the types of impacts that tend to have more fatal consequences for women.

It almost makes me want to run for a giant SUV, but as Gridlock Guy Doug Turnbull recently reported in The Atlanta Journal Constitution, big cars play a big role in pedestrian deaths (which are also on the rise) – so maybe that’s not such a good idea.

Advocacy groups have been pushing for regulations that would force automakers to use crash test dummies that look more like women’s bodies. Since the mid-1970s, when these dummies were first standardized, they were based on the bodies of men, and not just any man, Jermakian noted, but men in the military who wouldn’t have probably not the same body shape as the average man.

In 1980 and again in the mid-90s, several entities requested female models. NHSTA only put one in a car in 2003, and the one used was just a smaller version of the male dummy.

Jermakian said when the IIHS developed its crash test program in the mid-1990s, they realized they were testing a car and a dummy and had to do the best job of measuring the risk of injury. for all people. We can think of mannequins as sophisticated tools, but they’re not sophisticated enough to reflect differences in male and female biology, she said.

“We recognized that the model wasn’t going to give us all the answers,” Jermakian said. “We don’t just look at what the dummies are telling us, we’re also looking to make sure the structure of the vehicle holds up.”

Despite the limitations of the dummies, Jermakian said the agency’s tests have done a good job driving changes and vehicle innovations — seatbelts, airbags, crash-avoidance technology — that have helped to protect men and women.

But it’s more important than ever to understand why women are disproportionately impacted in some crashes. The IIHS survey found that while men and women are at the same risk of head and torso injury, women are still 70% more likely than men to sustain severe lower body trauma.

“We need to do a better job of understanding these differences so we know how to address them in our crash test program,” Jermakian said.

Until then, women need to find better ways to protect themselves on the road.

“Buy as much security as you can afford,” Jermakian said. Among its recommendations: Invest in collision avoidance technologies. Avoid the smallest and lightest cars.

And when you’re in the driver’s seat, do the most socially responsible thing: slow down.

Read more on the Real Life blog (www.ajc.com/opinion/real-life-blog/) and find Nedra on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AJCRealLifeColumn) and Twitter (@nrhoneajc) or email him at [email protected].